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WATCH: World Cup, Day 8 — Argentina on the edge; France aims for berth

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France, Denmark, and Croatia can clinch knockout round berths on Thursday in Russia, the last nation also holding the opportunity to help deprive the World Cup of an extended Lionel Messi run.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Messi’s Argentina drew Iceland in its opener, the megastar infamously missing a penalty, and will look to beat a Croatian side that looked quite good in dispatching Nigeria.

That’s the final match of the day, which begins with Denmark facing Australia and continues with a tasty match-up between France and Peru.

Below is Thursday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Wednesday, June 20

Group C
Denmark vs. Australia: Samara, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
France vs. Peru: Yekaterinburg, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group D
Argentina vs. Croatia: Nizhny Novgorod, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

World Cup Today: US vs Belgium is here (So is Argentina v Switzerland)

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WORLD CUP TODAY: TUESDAY, JULY 1

It’s go time, as the United States of America are one of only 10 teams remaining in the hunt for the title of 2014 World Cup champions.

The Yanks will hope to join Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Costa Rica, the Netherlands and either Switzerland or Argentina in the quarterfinals by beating Belgium on Tuesday at 4pm ET.

Monday saw Germany eek out an extra time win over valiant Algeria, while France beat Nigeria with a late charge to the final whistle.

[ MORE US/BELGIUM: Belgium’s injuries | Klinsmann questions referee | Match preview ]

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MATCH 55: ARGENTINA VS. SWITZERLAND

Location: Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Argentina has won the World Cup twice before and has the best player in the world in Lionel Messi (These stats support the adjective choice). Switzerland is hoping to live up to its claims that its Top Ten FIFA ranking is warranted after finishing second in Group E to France.

What they’re saying

Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld on Monday: “How to stop Messi? We’ll show you tomorrow how we do it.”

History

Argentina boasts two wins and a draw.

Premier League Players

Argentina: Manchester City has three representatives in Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero.

Switzerland – Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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MATCH 56: BELGIUM VS. UNITED STATES

Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide

Belgium is a talented side featured Eden Hazard and has roundly been considered the dark horse of the tournament (which makes them a favorite, right? A lighter horse, at the least?). They won all three of their group matches by one goal, while the United States are coming off a second-place finish in Group G.

What they’re saying

US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on the selection of Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi: “He is able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us, and it is a country we beat in the last World Cup. Sometimes I don’t understand FIFA. I know it is difficult to always choose the right referee for the right games… We give it the benefit of the doubt. We hope it is not a concern, we know he did two games already and he did them very well. We hope he continues to referee in the perfect way.”

History

Belgium has won two of three, with the United States only win coming at World Cup… 1930.

Premier League players

Belgium: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Eden Hazard(Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)

United States: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa); Tim Howard (Everton); Geoff Cameron (Stoke City); Jozy Altidore (Sunderland

MLS players
United States: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC); Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo); Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy); Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake); Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes); Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders); Matt Besler, Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

World Cup Today: Only one of 8 teams out of it in Groups E & F

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How’d you like to win your first two matches of World Cup and not be guaranteed a place in the knockout round? It’s extremely unlikely, but that’s the predicament facing France on Wednesday despite outclassing Switzerland and Honduras to open its tournament and boasting a plus-6 goal differential.

Still, the French should be through barring a three-goal stomping from Ecuador coupled with Switzerland running roughshod over Honduras. And with four matches on tap today, we’ll have to shift our focus from Tuesday’s action and controversy, which saw:

Luis Suarez’s third bite take the focus away from Uruguay’s advancement over Italy.

England’s snoozer of a draw against Costa Rica.

Greece playing the snake-in-the-grass to near-perfection in ouster of Ivory Coast

Colombia reinforcing its status as title threats with a 4-1 thumping of Japan

[ MORE: How will U.S. lineup vs. Germany ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

Two more group finales are in store on Wednesday. Let’s take a look at what’s in store:

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MATCH 43: Nigeria vs. Argentina
Location: Estádio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
The Soccerly headline says that Argentina is out to prove they are more than just Lionel Messi, who turned 27 on Tuesday, but they haven’t needed anything additional than Leo so far. Argentina is through and will win the group with a tie or better. Nigeria is also through with a draw.

What they’re saying
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella on Messi: “Whenever there is a player like Messi, there’s a dependence. We are trying to improve but dependence always exists. We have to try to take the pressure off him between all of us because we are a team. But for a great player there is always pressure at a World Cup.”

History
Argentina holds a 4-1-1 advantage, including a 3-for-3 mark at World Cups 2010, 2002 and 1994.

Premier League Players
Nigeria: John Obi MikelVictor Moses (Chelsea); Peter Odemwingie (Stoke City)
Argentina: Manchester City has three representatives: Pablo Zabaleta, Martín Demichelis and Sergio Agüero.

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source:  MATCH 44: Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran
Location: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
BNH is out, while Iran still advance with a win, a Nigeria loss and a better goal differential (Iran’s is currently -1, Nigeria’s +1). With the two teams having drawn 0-0, there’s also the chance of lots being drawn if the matches both finish 1-0.

What they’re saying
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on the match’s importance: “This is our World Cup final, it’s as simple as that. We didn’t come here to win the trophy. Nobody expected that from Iran, but we raised our expectations and we raised our dreams. We want to play the match with one goal in mind: to fulfil our dream of reaching the last 16.”

History
BNH has not won in five attempts against Iran with at least three goals scored in each match (Iran outscoring them 16-7).

Premier League players
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Asmir Begović (Stoke City); Edin Džeko (Manchester City)

MLS players
Iran: Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps)

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source: AP

MATCH 41: Honduras vs. Switzerland
Location: Arena da Amazônia, Manaus
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Believe it or not, Honduras is not out of this thing yet. It would take a crazy dose of CONCACAF magic, as the Central Americans will need to win and see Ecuador lose to France by margins that erase a goal differential of four. Switzerland needs to win and see Ecuador lose as well, though the erasing of goal differential is easier than Honduras’ task.

What they’re saying
Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka: “We have a better team and more quality than Honduras. And I think we deserve to go through to the Round of 16. We’re utterly determined to make it, and we’ll show it against Honduras.”

History
Met once at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where they drew 0-0.

Premier League players
Honduras – Maynor Figueroa (Hull City), Wilson Palacios (Stoke City)
Switzerland – Philippe Senderos (Aston Villa)

MLS players:
Honduras – Victor Bernardez (San Jose), Boneik Garcia (Houston), Marvin Chavez (Chivas USA), Jerry Bengtson (New England).

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 42: Ecuador vs. France
Location: Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Time: 4pmn ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Ecuador needs to win and hope Switzerland doesn’t absolutely destroy Honduras in Manaus. France wins the group with a draw, and it would take a grievous and historical loss to eliminate them as well (And what if they had Ribery?!?)

What they’re saying
Ecuador’s Christian Noboa on the match: ““It’s like a final for us and we’re hoping to win it and make our people happy. We can beat France. That’s why we’re here at the World Cup, because every team is capable of beating anyone else. We’ve seen that in the other games, and there isn’t much difference between sides now.

History
The two nations have never met.

Premier League players
Ecuador – Antonio Valencia (Manchester United)
France – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Moussa Sissokho (Newcastle), Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Loic Remy (QPR).

MLS players
Ecuador – Oswaldo Minda (Chivas USA)

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World Cup Today: Mexico looks to advance, Groups A & B titles on the line

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What a Sunday for the tournament, with a six-goal thriller and the United States-Portugal draw making up for a yawner between Belgium and Russia.

It’s going to be difficult to top Sunday’s World Cup action, though the concurrent group finales will help. Let’s take a look at what’s in store today:

[ MORE: How the U.S. can advance ]
[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

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MATCH 35: AUSTRALIA VS. SPAIN
Location: Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
Does it mean anything to Spain? Because an exuberant Socceroos side would be thrilled to knock off the reigning champs and kick them while down. Neither team can advance to the knockout rounds.

What they’re saying
Koke on Spain looking to set standard for future winners: “It’s very difficult to achieve what this group have achieved, but a new generation full of strength and hope is coming through, and why can’t we dream of doing that? I’m just one more player that’s going to fight for his national team and for his country.”

History
The two nations have never met.

Premier League Players
Australia: Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
Spain: David de Gea (Manchester United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Torres(Chelsea)

Major League Soccer players:
Australia: Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls)
Spain: David Villa (New York City FC)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: APMATCH 36: NETHERLANDS VS. CHILE
Location: Arena de São Paulo, São Paulo
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
The fight for the right to avoid Brazil. A Robin van Persie-less Netherlands will duke it out with a hobbled-Arturo Vidal and Chile, as two teams set for the knockout rounds jockey for position. Loser likely gets the host nation. Winner likely faces Mexico or Croatia.

What they’re saying
Chile’s Arturo Vidal when asked if the club is looking ahead to a potential match-up with Brazil: “It is difficult to talk about Brazil because before that we have a match much more important. Tomorrow we will have to play to win. If we play the same way as against Spain, we can make it all the way to final, but of course you have to prove that you really live up to your own expectations.”

History
The two nations have never met.

Premier League players
Netherlands: Tim Krul (Newcastle United), Ron Vlaar (Aston Villa), Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
Chile: None

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 33: CAMEROON VS. BRAZIL
Location: Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, Brasília
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s Guide
Can Cameroon salvage some pride with a shocking upset of the tournament’s hosts? It would be unlikely on so many levels (one being the officials), but all eyes will be on Brazil as they look to win Group A after a mid-group stumble draw against Mexico.

What they’re saying
Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari on the opponent fiasco: “You have to win the match, you have to advance to the next round. Some people have been saying that we might consider playing to choose our opponent, but they are either stupid or ill-intentioned. We have to play to advance, not to choose anything. We have to play to win.”

History
Brazil has won three of four matches against Cameroon, though the visitors won in the last tilt (2003 Confederations Cup).

Premier League Players
Brazil: David Luiz (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Cameroon: Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Queens Park Rangers)

Did you know: every player in the Russia squad plays their club soccer inside the country?

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: APMATCH 34: CROATIA VS. MEXICO
Location: Arena Pernambuco, Recife
Time: 4pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide
Mexico looks to strike another blow for CONCACAF, as a draw or win would put them through. The Croatians look to set right their loss against Brazil, which is still a flashpoint for controversy at home.

What they’re saying
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera will go for a W: “We are not going to think about a tie, our intention is to win. Of course if we end up with a draw, we progress anyway and so we would be happy, but if you go into a game thinking about a tie you are most likely going to lose. The idea is to look for a win, stay intense. We know that Croatia has to win, so that should open up space for us. If we know that they have to attack us, we should be able to take advantage.”

History
Croatia has won two of three, but Mexico won the last meeting in the 2002 World Cup.

Premier League players
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)
Croatia: Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Nikica Jelavić (Hull City)

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World Cup Today: Brazil, Mexico compete for Group A; Group H kicks off

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WORLD CUP TODAY: TUESDAY, JUNE 17

Each of the 32 World Cup teams will have played one tournament match by the end of Tuesday, as Group H makes its maiden voyage in Brazil. Meanwhile, Mexico and Brazil will duel in the hopes of securing frontrunner status for the knockout rounds, as each teams won its first match.

Group H is the group that will be paired with the winners of the United States’ Group G come the first knockout round.

As for Monday, the United States survived a game test from Ghana thanks to a late John Anthony Brooks header, Germany dominated Portugal, and Nigeria and Iran tested eyelids in a scoreless draw.

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MATCH 15: BELGIUM VS. ALGERIA
Location: Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte
Time: Noon ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Time to see whether Belgium is the giant many claim. With a wide variety of Premier League stars and plenty of depth at every position, Belgium should be able to handle stingy Algeria. After being shut out at the 2010 World Cup, Algeria seeks its first tournament goal since 1986.

What they’re saying:
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots: “The international press have called us an outsider and a favourite at the same time. It is a great pleasure to be back in the competition with players who are hungry and have a desire to achieve.”For Hazard and les Diables Rouges, back on the world stage after too long away, it is time to deliver.

History:
Belgium has beaten Algeria once, and the two nations drew their other encounter but haven’t squared off since 2003.

Premier League players:
Belgium: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur), Nacer Chadli (Tottenham Hotspur), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United).
Algeria: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City), Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham Hotspur)

RELATED: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly

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source: Getty ImagesMATCH 17: BRAZIL VS. MEXICO
Location: Estádio Castelão, Fortaleza
Time: 3pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: The hosts got plenty of officiating breaks in their opening win over Croatia, while Mexico had to overcome brutal linesman work in its victory over Cameroon. This one’s for group dominance, most likely, and it remains to be seen whether the hosts will find their form… and if Mexico can keep theirs.

What they’re saying:
Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari on Hulk’s fitness: “If there is a problem with Hulk I will have to completely change the system we have used for some time. The way he positions himself, on the right and on the left (makes him a threat). But I have players with different characteristics and qualities who can bolster the team.”

History:
Brazil has a 22W-6D-10L record against Mexico, but El Tri triumphed in the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Premier League players:
Brazil: David Luiz (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Ramires (Chelsea), Willian (Chelsea), Paulinho (Tottenham), Fernandinho (Manchester City)
Mexico: Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Manchester United)

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source:  MATCH 16: RUSSIA VS. SOUTH KOREA

Location: Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá
Time: 6pm ET
SOCCERLY PREVIEW | SOCCERLY MATCHCENTER

Cheater’s guide: Two teams that bring a bit of mystery to the World Cup, as both clubs have a remarkable amount of home-based club players. Russia actually has zero players plying their trades outside their borders. This could be a great prime time match-up for neutrals.

What they’re saying:
Korean captain Koo Ja-Cheol on their height disadvantage: “The Russians are a lot taller than we are.We’ve taken that into consideration. If it happens on the pitch we know what to do, how to defend ourselves against it – the main thing is to focus on our concentration.”

History:
The two nations paired up in November, with host Russia winning 2-1.

Premier League players:
Russia: None
South Korea: Yun Suk-Young (Queens Park Rangers), Park Chu-Young (Arsenal).